Recognising Those Who Served

By NWFL Program Editor Nigel Tapp
In 1939, at the end of the football season and after winning the North-West Football Union premiership, in Tasmania, the entire Burnie Football Club team enlisted together to serve in World War II.
One player, Lenny Goodluck, paid the ultimate sacrifice and did not return.
As we celebrate Anazc Day this year, the now named North-West League has paid tribute to some of its past players who served their nation during times of conflict.
Those named are but a tiny slice of the people who served, and by honouring them we honour all who accepted the call to serve Australia.
Victor Coombe (Latrobe): Former Latrobe captain Sergeant Victor Coombe is one of four former Demons who gave his life for his country in World War 1.
Assigned to the 15th Battalion AIF, Sgt Coombe was killed in 1915 aged 26.
The other former Latrobe players who did not return were Corporal Arthur Burton, Private Athol Hughes and A.W. Rockliff.
Latrobe also lost Leading Aircraftman Morris Clarke in World War II.
George Lawson (Ulverstone): Enlisted in the AIF in July 1940 and trained as a signaller before being posted to 2/40 Bn. The battalion spent two years training in Australia before deploying to Timor
George and his comrades were overran by the Japanese invading forces, were taken prisoner and sent to the infamous Changi complex at Singapore. Sometime later George and the other surviving battalion personnel worked on the Burma railway before serving as slave labour in Japan where they witnessed the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.
On his return to Australia, George rejoined the Launceston Bank for Savings and came to Ulverstone as its manager in the 1950s. George spent seven years as treasurer of Ulverstone Football Club. At 95 He is of only eight surviving members of 2/40 Bn.
Lyell Willcox (Penguin): Lyell Willcox served in the Australian Army from 1941-1946, initially putting up his age as 16-year-old to serve in the Home Guard. He joined the AIF in 1942, the day Japan bombed Pearl Harbour.
Lyell served in New Guinea from 1943-1945 before heading to Singapore to build hospitals for departing prisoners of war.
Made a life member of the club in 1979, he presents the Lyell Willcox Medal to the best Penguin under 18 player on Anzac Day.
Bill Spotswood (Smithton): Bill was born in Derby in 1924 and by 1942 he had followed in his father and joined the 12/50th Battalion out of Launceston.
Bill served in New Guinea and Timor for eight months before returning to Queensland to be retrained for the infantry before finishing his active service by training recruits in Bathurst.
His football days saw him running out of the back pocket for the Smithton Magpies in the CHFA during the 1950s. Playing as many games as he could while trying to establish his veterinary practice, Bill was a part of the club’s 1952 senior premiership team and was regarded as one of the best back pockets that Circular had ever seen.
Bill also spent many years as Secretary for the CHFA. He has been a passionate supporter of the Smithton Saints and rarely missed a home game until moving to reside at Emmerton Park where, at 91, he still follows the team’s progress.


  1. Car from the Country says

    Lovely story for ANZAC Day

  2. Top article Nigel. How many footballers paid the ultimate price in wars we’ve been involved in ? Many thousands you’d imagine would have never pulled the boots on again. In the old VFL 155 league players made the ultimate sacrifice. Lest we forget.


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